“Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaishnava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Krishna conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.32)
नैषां मतिस् तावद् उरुक्रमाङ्घ्रिं
स्पृशत्य् अनर्थापगमो यद्-अर्थः
निष्किञ्चनानां न वृणीत यावत्
naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat
Human beings are rational, after all. This means that they can develop a rationale to support any decision. What bigger choice is there than the direction in life based on the belief or lack thereof in a higher power?
The question comes down to the acknowledgment of an ever-watch full eye. When no one is looking and I do something I understand to be improper to some degree, will there be consequences? Not a soul around. Unless I divulge later on, the secret stays with me.
If I believe in a higher power, then that entity must have eyes everywhere. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, where a specific shloka references the feature known as Paramatma. Though not visible in the physical sense, the distribution is widespread.
सर्वतः पाणि-पादं तत्
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल् लोके
सर्वम् आवृत्य तिष्ठति
sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat
sarvataḥ śrutimal loke
sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)
If I lack belief in such a power, then it will be easier to continue on. As long as I can escape the scrutiny of the state, of other physically present watchful eyes, then everything will be okay. Those who claim otherwise can be shouted down by the lack of physical evidence. Moreover, the popularity of charlatans in religious garb, the pretend leaders only looking to exploit nature in the same way as myself, help to lend support to the accusations made against the concept of spiritual life.
1. Religion itself is nothing but a cunningly devised fable
Look at the stories presented. As a case study we can take Hinduism, which in the proper understanding is the Vedic culture. The roots are in scriptural works known as the Vedas, which originally get passed down in an aural form. Shabda-brahman, the sound of the Absolute Truth.
In this delineation there are so many amazing figures of authority. An elephant-deity, a person with poison perpetually stuck in his throat, a multi-armed lady seated atop a tiger, a bluish figure with four arms lying down on a serpent-bed, and so on.
The imagery is striking, but isn’t it all just a myth? Isn’t it convenient that these supposedly real-life entities will watch over everyone and keep them in line? If everything turns sour then they are at the ready to provide punishment. What better way to control the population than to concoct fables illustrating the folly of the sinful way of life, as defined by those wanting to control?
2. Religion is a trick of state
Support for this accusation comes from the many horror stories documented in history relating to challenge of key scriptural points. The state in these instances was tied to an established religious entity. Anyone opposing or deviating was considered a heretic. The fit punishment was death, often in a gruesome manner.
Religion has been used as an excuse to control people since time immemorial. It is really no different than the system of communism, which promotes the idea of equality and lack of envy. Everyone will be taken care of to a certain degree. Meanwhile, the leaders are exempt from the system of scarcity. They live lavishly at the expense of the public. They are not subject to the same rules, for if anyone marks a deviation the overwhelming power of the state comes after them.
3. Religion was invented to keep mankind in awe
If the people remain in awe, they are more likely to be controlled. They will not wander into areas of discovery. They will not question too much of what is going on. After all, who can explain the ways of God, who is beyond amazing? Who can really make sense of this world? Better to follow the leaders, for they have a better understanding, even though they are not compelled to prove it.
The counterargument is that just because pretenders and cheaters exist does not mean that the genuine thing is diminished in value. I may be scammed into purchasing knock-off goods on the street from a devious vendor, but the real items exist somewhere. The cheater has spoiled my impression of those items, but their behavior has no influence on existence.
While religion may have been used to cheat people and it may continue to be used that way today, the concept of life and death is still there for analysis. Death remains the guaranteed outcome to birth. The material nature is still a force to contend with, and so is the illusion in chasing after money, wealth, fame, name, honor, distinction and the like for achieving peace and happiness.
Prahlada Maharaja says that the only way to break free of the illusion is to take the dust of the lotus feet of a genuine servant of the Supreme Lord. That genuineness can be tested. In real spiritual life, questions are welcomed. Bring every doubt to the table. Leave no stone unturned. See for yourself if the proclaimed servant is actually interested in staying connected with God or if they are merely using the post as a ploy to gain followers and attract attention. Notice if they are addicted to intoxicants, gambling, needless violence against animals and enjoying the senses with others.
A saintly person like Prahlada Maharaja has such a significant influence that even the worst offenders to the law codes of dharma get purified. Though they may not be seeking such an end, though they may consider religion and God to be the greatest enemies at the personal level, the Vaishnava brings purification to whichever area they travel, making their association the most valuable.
Dust of their lotus feet taking,
For purification making.
Even if willing not,
This benefit got.
Power in the saintly person seen,
On maya’s illusion keen.
Support to idea of God lending,
Against false accusations defending.